Archive for 2013

Chilli Chocolate Macarons

I've been fascinated with macarons ever since we started selling them at the luxury department store I used to work at. I tasted every flavour we sold and as soon as I tasted one I thought; this is genius! This aesthetically pleasing, round and compact little meringue that is crunchy on the first bite, yet as soon as you reach the the centre, the texture turns into to a  velvety, chewy and creamy ganache that is full of flavour.

I bought the Pierre Herme macaron book some time last year and have been trying to find a good time to actually attempt to bake some macarons. It was quite overwhelming at first seeing all these different ingredients, but I thought I would take the plunge this week. 

And I did it!

I adapted the recipe a little as not only was I using my own flavour but some ingredients such as cacao pate and 'La Viette' butter I couldn't attain easily. I also halved the recipe as in the book they made 72 macarons at a time!

I would really recommend the book, the pictures are beautiful and instructions are given step by step with pictures.

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From Soy Bean to Tofu

The theme for this week's cooking shenanigans were 'legumes' and I wanted to make something spectacular. I'm not a big fan of beans, so it was a bit of a challenge. I decided to make a chinese tofu dessert ('tofu fa') but I didn't want to cheat by just buying the soy milk.

I started off by making soy milk from scratch and used gypsum powder and corn flour as the thickening agent for the Tofu Fa. I felt like a complete amateur during the whole process, it was certainly exciting at the end when I finally checked the tofu to see if it had set after all my hard work!

And it did!

It tasted just like the tofu dessert my mom buys from our local China town. My mom's usually a tough critic but even she  enjoyed it too!

(Heating the puree, getting the mixture ready for pressing, extracting the soy milk, soy milk!)

('Okara', waiting for the Tofu Fa to set, moment of truth... It set!!)


For the soy milk (makes 3-5 cups):
(adapted from Eating Rules)

1 cup dried soy beans
muslin/nut milk bag

Wash the soy beans in cool water and drain. Pick out any bad beans and place the rest of the beans in a large bowl/jar. Add 5 cups of water, cover and soak for 8 hours in a cool place. If soaking for more than 8 hours, place it in the fridge to prevent bacteria from growing. 

Drain the beans and give them another quick rinse with cool water. Put half the beans into a blender/food processor and add 2 cups of hot water. Blend for around a minute or until relatively smooth. Put the puree into a large pot/pan and repeat this process with the other half of the beans. Rinse out the blender with 1/4 cup boiling water and add it to the pot.

Heat the puree over medium high heat, stirring the mixture to prevent the bottom from burning. When it suddenly starts to foam rapidly, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 8 minutes and take it off the heat. 

To extract the milk, line a colander with a pressing cloth such as cotton muslin, a nut milk bag or flour sack towel and place it over a large bowl. Place the puree onto the cloth and twist the cloth closed. Use a utensil such as a potato masher to press the milk into the bowl. When you can't press any more milk out, add 1 and a half cups of boiling water to the cloth and press again. The soy bean mash or 'okara' can be used for cooking japanese recipes.

The soy milk is ready for drinking or for making Tofu Fa!

For the Tofu Fa (serves 2-3):
 (adapted from Christine's Recipes)

500ml unsweetened soy milk
1/2 tsp gypsum powder
1/2 tsp corn starch
25ml water
rock sugar/dark brown sugar/ginger (optional)

I got around 650ml of soy milk from the previous recipe and adapted this to make use of all the soy milk, but if you're unsure of how to adapt it to what you have, just take 500ml or double the recipe if you have more.

Heat the soy milk in a pan. Meanwhile, dissolve the gypsum powder and corn starch in a large bowl. When the soy milk begins to froth rapidly, pour it into the gypsum powder/corn starch mixture from about a foot high to combine it well. 

Do not move or stir the mixture after you have poured it. Place a cloth over the bowl to absorb the moisture and cover. Let it sit for 40-45 minutes to set. 

Melt some rock sugar in water to make the syrup and add some ginger if you like!

Smoked Salmon Rosti, Vanilla French Toast & Lychee and Raspberry Smoothie

I've never really thought much of breakfast. In the weekday, I would much rather get an extra 15 minutes of sleep than get up early to make something nice to eat. I want a breakfast thats quick, easy to eat and will fill me up for at least a few hours before I treat myself with a mid-morning snack. As you can imagine, this severely limits my choices and is probably why I find breakfast so boring.

On the weekend however, not only do I have the time to actually cook breakfast, but I also have the time to sit down and enjoy it. I made enough to feed five and the potato rosti came out surprisingly well - it was crisp yet soft in the middle and pretty easy to make too.

Smoked salmon rosti with a poached egg, watercress and sour cream & chive

Vanilla french toast with condensed milk

I have a major sweet tooth, so of course, you can't have something savoury without something sweet too. 

 Lychee & Raspberry Smoothie

And to wash it all down, I made an incredibly simple and tasty lychee and raspberry smoothie. The lychees gave the smooothie just the right amount of sweetness and a great refreshing taste to wake you up in the morning.

I'll definitely be making  the rosti again in the future, it was filling yet not too stodgy and you can always switch it up with different toppings to keep it interesting.


For the rosti (makes 4):
(adapted from Food52)
500g white baking potatoes
55g butter, melted
salt and pepper for seasoning
2 tbs olive oil
4 handfuls of watercress
A pack of smoked salmon
sour cream
fresh chives, finely chopped

This recipe makes 1 large 10" rosti that can be sliced into 4 portions. For separate portions, you can divide the rosti mixture into 4 portions and cook with smaller pans. If you don't have 4 frying pans to do this with, you can always keep the cooked rostis warm in a low-heated oven while you continue cooking. 

Wash the potatoes and dry them with paper towels. Placing a clean paper towel on to the work surface, grate the potatoes on to the towel. The original recipe calls for a julienned blade mandoline but a standard cheese grater will also work. Try and get most of the moisture away from the grated potatoes by squeezing the liquid away or press another paper towel on top of the shredded potatoes.

Put the grated potatoes into a large bowl and mix in the melted butter. Add the salt and pepper seasoning and combine. Heat the pan on medium heat and add the oil. When hot enough, put the entire mixture into the pan and cook for around 8 minutes and then increase the heat to medium high for 6 minutes to get a nice crisp.

When ready, flip the rosti quickly (but securely) onto a relatively flat plate or pizza pan. Slide the rosti back into the pan to cook the other side until crispy. Place the rosti in a low-heated oven to keep warm.

Poach an egg to your desired runniness. Slice the rosti into 4 and plate, placing the watercress, poached egg, smoked salmon, sour cream and chives attractively on top.

For the vanilla french toast (makes 4 slices): 
2 medium eggs
150ml milk
1 tsp vanilla essence/extract
4 slices of white bread, each sliced into fours
condensed milk for topping or other preferred sauces

Combine the eggs, milk and vanilla essence together in a deep-rimmed plate (for easy bread dipping). Heat a pan on medium high heat. When ready add a small amount of butter. Soak the bread on both sides into the mixture and place in the heated pan. Flip the bread when it is browned and crispy and do the same to the other side. Repeat with remaining slices.

Finish with your desired sauce or syrup on top.

For the lychee and raspberry smoothie (makes 4 small or 2 large glasses):
1 tin of lychees in syrup
1 small punnet of raspberries
200g Greek yoghurt
a small amount of milk

Place all the ingredients apart from the milk into a blender and mix until smooth. Taste and add a small amount of milk at a time until it reaches the right thickness for you. 

Homemade Vanilla Essence

It was my boyfriend's sister's birthday a few weeks ago and to celebrate her 18th, I wanted to give her something a little different.

Along with a bottle of Kwai Feh lychee liqueur (nom-alicious in cocktails ), I made a bottle of vanilla essence/extract with a customised birthday label, finished off with a nude bow.

I got the idea from Call Me Cupcake - its so easy to make!

All you need is:
3 vanilla pods
250 ml vodka or dark rum (I used vodka)

Slice the pods lengthwise in half, with one end still connected. Place in a clean bottle and top up with your chosen alcohol. Put the lid on and give the bottle a good shake.

Store the bottle in a dark, cool place for two months, giving it a shake once in a while. The extract will darken over time and can be refilled with more vanilla pods/vodka/rum.

Banana & Salted Caramel Cake with Nutella Frosting

I had the idea for this cake after taking a weekend trip to Paris with my boyfriend. At one point, we were lost and came across the most wonderful chocolate boutique store. We bought loads of little chocolate gifts for family and friends with flavours such as, earl grey, rose and butterscotch.

I was about to pay for all my items when I noticed some small jars on a shelf. They were these cute little jars with a vintage sort of design that turned out to be salted caramel! I immediately started thinking of recipes I could use it with - salted caramel macarons, salted caramel crepes, salted caramel tart...

I eventually decided to make a banana cake with salted caramel layers and Nutella frosting.

I was finally able to use my new piping nozzles and I think they really added an elegant touch to the look of the cake.


For the banana cake:
(adapted from a Hummingbird Bakery recipe via another foody blog)
270 g light brown sugar
2 eggs
200 g peeled bananas, mashed
280 g plain flour 
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
140 g unsalted butter, melted
About 1 cup of salted caramel
Smal amount of white chocolate, melted and slightly cool (optional)

For the Nutella frosting:
(via Sweetapolita)
227g butter, softened but cool
190g icing sugar, sifted
2 tsp vanilla extract
125g premium bittersweet chocolate, melted and slightly cooled
100g Nutella
1 tbs milk
pinch of salt

Starting with the banana cake, grease three 6 inch cake tins and preheat the oven to 170C/325F/gas mark 3.

Beat the sugars and eggs well with an electric mixer or whisk by hand until well incorporated. Beat in the mashed bananas. Add the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, cinnamon and ginger to the sugar mixture. Mix thoroughly and pour in the melted butter and beat until all the ingredients are mixed well and incorporated.

Divide the mixture evenly into the 3 cake tins and smooth over. Bake in the oven for about 45-60 mins - NOTE: the original recipe calls for an hour but these are in cake tins rather than loaf tins, which will take less time to bake. Check at 30 mins and insert a skewer into the centre of the cake, which should come out clean when fully cooked. Bake for longer if necessary.

Leave the cake to cool slightly in the tin before turning out on to a wire rack to cool completely.

For the Nutella frosting, beat the sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla until well incorporated and next, place the melted and slightly cooled chocolate into the mixture. Mix until smooth.

Add the Nutella, milk and salt and beat until light and airy.

When cool, assemble the cake by spreading semi-thick layers of salted caramel between the cake layers. For best results, spread a thin layer of frosting on the entire cake and place in the fridge for approximately half an hour. The frosting should have hardened after this, and you can continue to frost the cake without crumbs mixing into the icing.

Lamb Laap Salad with Mint and Rocket

This week I have been experimenting with fresh mint leaves. I didn't want to do the usual mint and choc combo (although I am a big fan) and remembered a popular dish I saw in Laos when I was travelling. 

According to Wikipedia, laap is regarded as the national dish of Laos. Laap is a minced meat salad with chilli and mint that is quite light and refreshing to eat but still filling!

 I made mine with minced lamb but its usually made with pork or chicken (they were out of minced pork at the supermarket!). I got this recipe from a cooking class I took in Luang Prabang but I didn't have certain ingredients such as kaffir lime leaves and rice flour so I have adapted it a little!


Makes 1 portion:
200g minced lamb
2tbs water
1/2 tsp chicken stock granules
2 shallots, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 small bunch of fresh mint leaves (add as much or as little as you want), finely chopped
*1 tbs fried garlic
*1 tbs fried shallots
zest of 1 lemon
juice of 1 lemon
1/4 tsp fish sauce
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp chilli powder
1 handful of rocket leaves

*Fried garlic and shallots may be bought from asian food stores (so the cook book says!) but I found it easier to deep fry a few finely chopped shallots and garlic in a pan until golden brown.

Put the hot water and chicken stock into a wok on low heat. Add half the juice of a lemon and stir. When the stock has dissolved place the minced lamb in the wok and cook until entirely brown. Take the wok off the heat and sieve the meat to drain the juices. Put the meat into a large bowl for mixing.

Add the chopped shallots, garlic and mint leaves and mix well. Next, put in the fried garlic, fried shallots and lemon zest and mix again. Juice half a lemon and add to the mixture, along with the fish sauce, salt and chilli powder.

When everything thing is mixed together, try a spoonful of the meat and adjust the taste to your preference with any extra ingredients. You may wish to add more seasoning such as, salt, fish sauce or more mint leaves.

Grab a handful of rocket leaves and place it on a plate or bowl. Using a large spoon, carefully pile the meat mixture on top of the salad leaves. Finish with a mint leaf garnish.

Fried Wonton Roses

I was looking for a unique appetiser recipe and came across these fried wonton roses by Hungry Happenings. I was worried about how fiddly they would be (very) but they were great fun to make.

If you're interested in making them for yourself, I would recommend giving Hungry Happenings a visit as she's done a fantastic tutorial that I don't think I would be able to do justice with! 

I substituted her artichoke cream cheese filling with a more traditional chopped prawn mix that I lightly seasoned with sesame oil, soy sauce and pepper. I didn't use a cooking thermometer to check the oil temperature as I don't own one so if you're in the same boat as me, I would recommend to try and not overheat your oil as my  second batch cooked a little too quickly and the neck of the roses didn't quite cook through.

I'm actually quite proud of these, although I wasn't at the time as they were taking so long to make. I was even told they were the best tasting wontons ever tasted!

Lemon & Vanilla Batman Cupcakes

Earlier last year when The Dark Knight Rises was first released I had the chance to go to a private 5am screening. I really wanted to bake some Batman themed cupcakes but wasn't entirely sure that it would be the best early morning snack.

I baked them anyway and left them in the hallway with a little note for fellow movie-goers to help themselves. I was so worried no one would bother for such a sweet snack at that time in the morning!

Luckily, they went down a treat and all were gone before everyone settled down to watch the film!

The cupcakes actually turned out a lot neater than I had expected. I didn't want to use fondant icing for the batman logo and with a bit of googling, I printed off some batman logos on to paper and placed a piece of greaseproof paper over it. After melting  some chocolate, I piped the chocolate onto the greaseproof paper, with the printed logos underneath as a template.

It works best when the chocolate has cooled down a bit so its not too liquid. Unfortunately, I took a bit too much time towards the end and the chocolate actually solidified too much and became one big chocolate mess. I would advise quick hands for this technique!

I adapted the recipe from a Peggy Porschen Victoria Sponge (which, is absolutely delicious).


For the lemon sponge:

200g unsalted butter, softened
200g caster sugar
Pinch of salt
Seeds of 1/2 a vanilla pod 
4 medium eggs
200g self-raising flour
Fine zest of 2 lemons

For the vanilla buttercream:

300g unsalted butter, softened
300g icing sugar, sifted
Pinch of salt
Seeds of 1/2 vanilla pod
Small amount of yellow food dye/paste

Preheat the oven to 175° C/gas mark 4. Line the baking tray with paper cupcake liners.

For the sponge batter, place the butter, sugar, salt, vanilla seeds and lemon zest in a mixing bowl and cream together until pale and fluffy. Beat the eggs lightly in another bowl and slowly add to the butter mixture while whisking quickly. If the mixture starts to separate or curdle, stop adding the egg and beat in 2 to 3 tablespoons of flour to rebind the batter. Once all the egg has been added and combined, sift in the flour and stir until the batter is just combined to ensure a light and fluffy sponge.

Divide the batter evenly between the cupcake liners in the baking tray. Bake for 15-20 minutes, depending on your oven. The sponge is cooked when the tops are golden brown and spring back to the touch. I always to like check by inserting a cocktail stick (clean knife will work too) into the centre of the sponge, which should come out clean when cooked.

For the vanilla buttercream frosting, cream together the butter, icing sugar, salt and vanilla seeds in a mixing bowl until very pale and fluffy. Add a small amount of yellow food colour to the mixture and stir through until combined until you reach a desired colour.